In our daily devotion to reach greatness, we as a culture, have come to realize we cannot be just one thing. The world is no longer satisfied with one-dimensional beings who offer mastery in just one area out of the vast dimensions composing our world. There has to be more to us than just one feature. We have to be good at our craft, but also knowledgeable in the areas surrounding it and complementing it — even in areas barely related to what we know.
The process of becoming well rounded emerges in stages; you start at one place and gradually prepare to take on more, little by little. It’s kind of like learning a language; first you get the grammar down, sentence structure, then vocabulary. Then you move towards adopting the conversational elements of language and start learning about the culture surrounding it. However, one language isn’t enough. Now that you’ve gained fluency in one, it’s time to move onto the next. Be well-versed in many languages so that you can display your versatility.
You’re not just working towards becoming the best writer. Or the best singer. Or the best actor. Dancer. Musician. Director. Producer. You’ve got to be working towards acquiring a wide range of skills.
Resumes have to offer bits and pieces of what compose the whole. If I want to be a great writer, I have to learn how to become a great editor, a great reader and a great critic. The etymological history of this term dates back to 1764, as “well-rounded” was to be “symmetrically proportioned.” One aspect of us can’t weigh too heavily on the other parts. It’ll offset the balance. It’ll force us to admit we can’t do A, B and C. Only A. Yet, it seems that isn’t enough.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, a name you’ve probably heard nonstop lately, provides a beautiful example for what a well-rounded person really looks like. He is referred to as an actor, rapper, composer, playwright and writer. Miranda does all of this and does it well, offering the paradigm for a well-rounded artist. Best known for his lyrics and music for “Into the Heights” and “Hamilton,” Miranda’s artistry displays dimension. While doing many things, each aspect of his holds immense value.
Sometimes in the process of taking on too much, we wear ourselves thin and the value of each part starts to dwindle. In this way, we become beings who do a lot of things, but each at a subpar level — not the best or even close to the best.
We’ve become a people who have to acquire more than one skill to prove we can do the thing we claim to know best, the best. In this process, we learn it requires a willingness for each of us to jump into anything for the sake of gaining deeper knowledge towards what originally provoked our passion.
There is a distinction worth making between what exists as a choice and what we force ourselves to do to become more dynamic. Sometimes one path leads to another and you may discover that your interest in singing may lead to an interest in playing an instrument. Either way, there is a choice whether to divert or not from familiarity. The expectation has already been set. Our culture is just waiting for us to reach it.
As students, we see this type of thinking play out in almost anything — careers, jobs, internships — we want to offer more than the person next to us and it is vital towards developing our craft.
Agent Leslie Barany writes in a letter to aspiring artists: “Stop aspiring and start doing. This will keep you very busy but it can’t be helped. In my opinion, this is how you might, possibly, have a shot at becoming a good artist.”
We have to be motivated to know a lot about what surrounds us in our artistry, the fields outside of our specific studies and even the people around us who are different than ourselves.
To become a well-rounded individual, we have to start doing. Greatness is not purely expertise in one area, but it is appreciation and knowledge of everything surrounding it. In this, you can tap into a new level of richness and beauty towards what you already know and love — offering more to your pursuit while understanding all that surrounds it.